I know it is not original to me, but I have always said that the best thing a teacher can do for his or her students is teach them to think. Unfortunately, while it would seem that this should be a given, it is not always. Far too much “education” these days is in the form of pumping the heads of students full of facts and figures long enough for them to pour it back out for the test. After that, who cares? As long as the scores are high enough on the standardized tests and the school makes “adequate yearly progress” that’s all that matters.
I was reminded of the importance of thinking recently when I saw an ad for Reformed Theological Seminary. A picture of young man gazing intently into a star-filled sky was beneath the headline “If you long to know the mind of God, you must learn to use your own.” Near the bottom of the ad is this statement: “[A] faith that’s truly mature requires a mind that’s well-informed.” I am not particularly familiar with RTS, but based solely on this ad I am convinced that someone there “gets it” (even if only someone in the marketing department).
Dorothy Sayers wrote an essay entitled The Lost Tools of Learning that is well respected among many educators, especially those within the field of classical education. My favorite statement in her well-written essay is this: “Is not the great defect of our education today–a defect traceable through all the disquieting symptoms of trouble that I have mentioned–that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils ‘subjects,’ we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning.” And that was written some sixty-five years ago; how much worse is it now?!?
Unfortunately the dearth of thinking goes far beyond institutions of formal education. Sadly, it tends to be a mark of the church, as well. Far too many Christians fail to engage their minds, somehow afraid to wrestle with the practical application of their faith to their everyday lives, throwing their mind in neutral at church. John Piper wrote a book entitled Think, and Ravi Zacharias has radio broadcasts entitled Let My People Think and Just Thinking. They have built their ministries at least in part around stimulating the believer to engage the mind as well as the heart when it comes to spirituality.
Dictionary.com begins its eighteen definitions of the word “think” with these two: “to have a conscious mind, to some extent of reasoning, remembering experiences, making rational decisions, etc.; to employ one’s mind rationally and objectively in evaluating or dealing with a given situation.” The Bible is full of instructions on the use of the mind and the importance of thinking; why have so many believers allowed their minds to become intellectually flabby? Why are so many churches failing to stimulate thinking and intellectual rigor?
Jesus Himself said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind….” Can we really love Him with all our mind if we refuse to think?
I dare say incredible things would happen if Christians would start thinking seriously about the Word of God and about using its power to impact our world.